Stacks of multi-colored hand-woven fabrics.

This is not just another story about an organic, fair trade clothing line. Yes, Indigenous is a luxury, ethical fashion, B Corp that weaves low-impact dyes, organic fibers, and fair trade wages into every piece.  But this is a story about a community loving another; a company seeking balance for their spirits and the spirits of all beings. I guess you could call this a love story.

Love is Listening

Before Scott Leonard, the CEO of Indigenous, ever decided to start a high-end, ethical fashion company, he decided to understand the needs of the women in economically marginalized communities. The goal wasn’t to bring his idea of what the ethical consumer wanted and then employ women in developing worlds to craft it. His goal was to support the artisanal craft of women by nurturing their talent and skills so that they could design a line which could make an appearance in Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue--- so that he could dictate a higher wage for them. For 22 years, Leonard has been listening. Recently, he took a journey, 12,000 feet into the Andes. What he saw was that the higher wages were preserving culture.

“One of our key partners, Mr. Rohas and his family, told me that the work we are providing is 100 percent allowing for cultural preservation as well as the preservation of a talent and skill in weaving. So, are we changing some of the patterns and expecting a higher quality? Yes. Are we leaving an intact skill?  Yes. Are we creating a viable income stream so that artists can live in their villages, 4,000 feet high in the Andes? Yes. People who don’t want to move to Lima. They’d rather be with their culture because it’s who they are. I saw that our model is helping to guide the balance of the old and new world,” Leonard told me.

It’s their commitment to the yin and the yang.

The team at Indigenous is deeply centered to honor women: Peruvian women who hold generational stories of the looms in their hands and the working women in Soho who display a new wave of feminism in their office apparel. Loving both the expressions of feminism, the traditional and the emergent in one expression, held in balance through a practice of listening.

Love is Balance

Two to four times a month, the entire team at Indigenous pauses. They step away from their desks, turn off the lights, and practice yoga together. Breathe. Move. Refocus. This is not a trend they are trying out or building into their California brand. Daily communal yoga reminds the Indigenous team of their higher purpose and invites balance.

“It’s so easy to get swept away by the fashion industry. We have to hit constant deadlines. We have to operate quickly and make it to Fashion Week. There’s this idea that we must keep it up on all fronts. The world doesn’t stop. But, we need to stop and share the same breath. We do this each day to ground ourselves. It’s so easy to get stuck behind the desk or normal transaction and forget how much impact we are making,” says Leonard.

Perhaps it’s this practice of balance that presents itself in their handmade, luxury apparel. Indigenous clothing is the both/and. Both high-end: check out their Boiled Wool Side Zip Coat with textured patterns from a blend of alpaca and wool. And hand-woven together by fairly paid artisans. As in, hand-knit, hand-stitched, woven together by hand on a loom. Forgive me for the drama, but this commitment to balance and to loving artists deserves a dramatic celebration.

Love is Action

Listening creates balance and balance allows for powerful action.

Indigenous offers easy ways to support badass nonprofits fighting for gender equality with seasonal specials and purpose-driven campaigns. When you choose to use your consumer power to end violence against women and keep plastics out of our intricate oceans, you choose love. Love in action.

This is the love story of Indigenous. A company with listening, balance, and action at its core.

I invite you to step into this love story with me, with Indigenous. Read the story of Indigenous.

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About The Author

Julie Fahnestock's picture

Julie is committed to telling the story of where business meets good. She is the Founder of B Storytelling, a content development company specifically designed to help popularize the good happening through business. They do this by helping B Corps and other social enterprises identify, build and leverage their brands. She is also a writer for 3BL Media and Just Means and has been published in M&V Magazine and the Centre of Social Innovation at the University of Cambridge among others. Julie has an MBA in Managing for Sustainability from Marlboro Graduate School. She lives in West Palm Beach, Florida and is laser focused on becoming a better surfer than her husband, Thomas. 

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